I forget where I first learned it, but during a Trico hatch, all you need to do to catch the trout that are snubbing your trico pattern is tie on an ant. Over the last 10 years, I’ve found that ants are a trump card that no trout can refuse. This is especially true when you encounter tough to catch fish that are actively feeding on insects that are smaller than a #18. If its mid to late summer and you’ve got fish rising to bugs you can’t see, try an ant and avoid beating your head up against a wall trying to figure out what its really eating.
Ants are also an excellent searching pattern. That is, when there is no hatch, try an ant in all the likely — and unlikely — looking places, and you will almost certainly catch fish all season long.
Why? A big reason is that ants aren’t just around late in the season. For example, last year during the trout opener (late April here in Michigan), I was sitting on the bank and noticed thousands of small brown ants crawling around the grass on the bank. So ants are around all season long in high numbers and they can’t fly away once they fall into the water.
That’s a perfect storm of a combination.
The Otsego Ant (named for the Michigan county where it was developed) is essentially a double Griffith’s Gnat with some red floss in the middle. Many anglers believe that trout see a Griffith’s Gnat as a clump of midges doing the nasty. The Otsego Ant has multiple things going for it. It has red. It looks like not one, but two! midge orgies. And of course, it looks like an ant. And whenever you have a fly that simultaneously looks like multiple prey types, and only takes a few minutes to tie, you are #winning!
Hook: #12 to #22 standard dry fly hook
Thread: Red or Black
Body: Peacock Herl and Red Floss
Estimated Tying Time: 3 min.
Start your thread above the hook point and create a thread base that goes a few wraps or so behind the barb.
Tie in a single grizzly hackle feather
Tie in 2 pieces of peackock herl and wrap forward to a point above the hook point. An optional step here is to purposely leave the butt ends too long and use them in a later step instead of tying in two more pieces of peacock herl. This saves one step while tying and isn’t really a big deal unless you’re tying a lot of them in one sitting. You can do the same thing with the hackle, and save two steps.
Wrap your hackle forward and tie off.
Tie in a piece of red floss
Bring your thread forward to the point about two eye widths behind the eye.
Wrap the floss forward. Tie in a grizzly hackle feather.
Wrap the peacock herl forward.
Wrap the hackle forward and whip finish.
Alex Cerveniak is a fly fishing guide based in northern Michigan (www.northernmichiganflyfishing.com) He is also a freelance writer/photographer, writes a blog called Chuck & Duck at The Drake magazine, and is a former Editor at MidCurrent and Hatches Magazine. He has contributed words and photos to various online and print outdoor media outlets, e-books, businesses, and organizations. Alex has a degree in Environmental Science and is an active member of several conservation groups. He grew up and lives in northern Michigan, but spent his late twenties fishing in upstate New York. Outside of the obvious, Alex enjoys hunting, camping, hiking, greasy pizza you have to fold to pick up, and his wife’s pineapple upside-down cake.
If you have any comments or questions, Alex can be reached via email at email@example.com.